Capturing birds in flight with a Nikon 1 V2 and FT-1 adapter

For the past 8 months or so I have been shooting a lot of static and perched birds with a Nikon 1 V2, FT-1 adapter, my Nikkor 70-200 f/4 VR lens and TC-17E II teleconverter. This set-up gives me an equivalent field-of-view of 918mm @ a rather slow f/6.7. Even though the teleconverter does cause some loss of sharpness I’ve been happy with the results as you can see from the sample below.

Female Cardinal

While successful for perched birds, this set-up has been a different story for birds in flight. I’ve found that the auto focusing hunts a great deal at f/6.7 when trying to capture birds in flight, and the EFoV of 918mm makes it extremely difficult to keep a flying bird in the frame long enough to acquire focus. My skill set is such that other than getting the odd image of a cormorant flying in the distance at a 90-degree angle to me, I was unsuccessful in getting very many usable shots.

So, I decided to leave my teleconverter at home and went down to the local harbor to see how my Nikkor 70-200 f/4 would do with a Nikon 1 V2 photographing birds in flight. This set-up has an EFoV of 540mm @ f/4, which I thought was a more realistic set-up.

DSC_1341_DxOsmall

Since ducks, geese and cormorants are all larger, heavy birds that typically fly in straight lines I didn’t think that they would represent good test subjects. So instead I concentrated on terns and gulls as their flight paths can be quite erratic and require a camera/lens to focus quickly to get any usable images. The terns were especially challenging as they would often abruptly stop in mid-air and plummet straight down into the water to catch fish.

DSC_1577_DxOsmall

DSC_1731_DxOsmall

I conducted my test over a two day period. The first was a bright, sunny day with very little cloud cover. The second was a grey, overcast day which I thought would be more challenging for the Nikon 1 V2. I took about 1,200 images during a total of 3.5 hours of shooting time spread over the two days.

DSC_1566small

Overall, I found the combination of the Nikon 1 V2, FT-1 adapter and 70-200 f/4 to be lightweight and quite easy to use to capture birds in flight. Most of the time focus was very fast and accurate even with birds flying directly at me. I did not detect much of a difference in focusing time or accuracy between the bright sunny day and the overcast one. The fact that I was limited to one focus point in the center of the fame when using the FT-1 adapter with the Nikon 1 V2, and that I could only take single exposures, was somewhat restricting…but I was still able to get a good number of acceptable images.

DSC_1794_DxOsmall

I did some test shots with rocks and other objects in the background to see if the V2 would get confused in terms of subject matter. On occasion it did lock on to the background…but this could have been as much my fault as the camera’s as I often rushed individual shots as birds were flying rapidly past me.

The only time when I consistently missed focus was when a bird was closing in on me very quickly and I had a split second to try and wheel around, get the bird in the frame, and achieve focus. Under these circumstances even the slightest hunting by the lens would cause a missed shot. Other than that specific situation I did not find any problems with focus speed or accuracy.

DSC_1866_DxOsmall

I was most successful when picking out a bird that was approaching from a distance of about 60-75 feet or more, half depressing the shutter and panning with it as the bird came closer, then pressing the shutter fully as the bird began to fill the frame to a reasonable degree.

DSC_1909_DxOsmall

I used spot metering for all my shots, an aperture of f/5.6 or less, and used the auto 160-800 ISO setting. White balance was set for either direct sunlight or cloudy depending on conditions. Since my shutter speeds were very fast (i.e. 1/1250 or higher for most of the images) I turned the VR off on my lens. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the image size setting on the Nikon 1 V2 I was using for this test and found out after the fact on the first day that it had been set for small image size i.e. 2304×1536. No doubt the images would have had much more detail in them if the camera had been set for large file size. I did reset the camera the following day, which as I mentioned, was grey and overcast.

DSC_1934cropsmall

I should also note that you can really extend the number of shots you can get with a Nikon 1 V2 by keeping your thumb over the EVF sensor between shots, and by turning off the camera during lulls in the action. The battery on the V2 has an official rating of 310 images. On the first day I was able to take about 700 shots before I drained the battery completely. On the second day I took almost 500 shots and still had some charge left in the battery.

DSC_1961_DxOsmall

After spot checking several hundred random images I estimate that the Nikon 1 V2 with the FT-1 adapter acquired focus at least 80% to 85% of the time with the 70-200 f/4 lens…which I thought was quite acceptable.

DSC_2171_DxOsmall

DSC_2335_DxOsmall

If you would like to see more samples of the birds in flight images I got during this test you can view them on this YouTube video.

Using a Nikon 1 V-series camera with an FT-1 adapter and your F-mount Nikkor telephoto primes or zoom lenses is a viable set-up for birding enthusiasts. While it may not produce images of the highest professional standards when using the Nikkor zoom lenses typically owned by the majority of people, the quality is at an acceptable level, and most importantly, it is a really enjoyable and affordable pastime.

Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.

Comments

  1. Profile photo of Mike Banks
    1
    ) Mike Banks
    May 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Thomas, do you think you would have had better results with the camera/lens on either a monopod or tripod with gimbal?

    • 3
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your question…

      Given how tight the physical space was where I was shooting and the speed (and variety of angles of approach) of the birds I was trying to capture, I think trying to use a monopod or tripod with a gimbal would have been more an obstacle than a help. I’ve actually only ever used a monopod once when shooting birds…and that was to stabilize my camera when shooting video at an efov of 918mm. Guess I’m just a ‘hand-held’ kind of guy.

      The images in this posting would have been much better had I checked the image size setting on the V2 I was using on the first day….it was set for ‘small’ so the original images taken in bright sunlight were very small….2304 x 1536. (I recently sold my V2 and I was used to having mine always set on ‘large’…and it never dawned on me to check the image size on the camera I borrowed…shame on me!)

      The sky on the second day was a flat, mid-tone grey against which I was trying to focus on light-grey birds approaching quickly….a fun challenge to say the least.

      Overall I was happy with how the Nikon 1 V2 with the FT-1 teleconverter performed.

      Tom

      • 5
        ) Thomas Stirr
        May 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm

        Oops!!! Sorry for my fingers not following my brain….the FT-1 is an adapter….not a teleconverter….

        Tom

      • Profile photo of Mike Banks
        14
        ) Mike Banks
        May 16, 2014 at 6:51 am

        Tom, I haven’t done much with birds in flight and stick more with birds on a perch. I understand the constraint you had to deal with. Here in Richmond we have a platform called the pipeline down by the James River. There is an estuary where eagles and osprey nest and hatch their young. During the season sections of the pipe line get so crowded with photographers it is hard to deploy a full sized tripod. Myself and several friends have taken to get there at about 4:30 AM since the sun also comes up over the James and we can get some good shots of the sunrise while staking out a claim to our spots. As I get older it is becoming more difficult for me to hand hold some of the bigger, heavier glass that I own so for me it is always either on a monopod or tripod. Maybe that is why I’ve not been too successful with BIF.

        No problem with the mind, finger slip. I think we all knew the FT-1 is an adaptor.

        I got to handle the Nikon V3 at a NSMP meeting several weeks ago and I think since I’m a Nikon shooter that is the way I’ll go for a smaller everyday kit. However, I don’t think I’ll ever give up on my DSLR’s for my pro work but that opinion comes from not having much experience with the smaller formats.

        • 15
          ) Thomas Stirr
          May 16, 2014 at 6:59 am

          Hi Mike,

          I’m with you in terms of using my DSLR for all of my professional still photography client work. My D800 is an absolute workhorse in this regard and all of my client still photography is done with that body and a selection of FX glass. I do use my Nikon 1 cameras in tandem with my D800 for client video work though…the quality of video with the Nikon 1 system is surprisingly good and I really appreciate the added flexibility that the 2.7X crop gives me when I need more DOF in lower lighting conditions.

          I’m really looking forward to getting my 1 Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 at the end of May…I think this is going to be a great combination with my V3 (which I hopefully will have next week).

          Tom

          • Profile photo of Mike Banks
            16
            ) Mike Banks
            May 16, 2014 at 8:24 am

            Tom,

            I’m looking forward to getting my V3 as well. To justify the expense to my wife I lied about the cost and told her I was getting it because of it’s small size, easy for her to use, and it was only a couple hundred bucks. Of course, I’m hoping she doesn’t google it. LOL

            Certainly we are in agreement that the DSLR is the workhorse for the pro. I use both the D800e and the D7100 for certain types of work where I won’t need the depth of the FX sensor. I was contemplating getting a D4s but couldn’t justify it for my work. I just don’t need 120 continuous captures for anything I do. BIF is hobby work for me not my earned income.

          • 21
            ) KnightPhoto
            May 17, 2014 at 10:39 pm

            My V3 and N1 70-300 aren’t in yet so was out shooting with my V1/FT-1/FX 70-300 today. I use it as my light rig when birdwatching is the main goal and hiking some distances. I hope that the native N1 70-300 has better AF performance than the FX lens with FT-1. The hunting to get initial AF can be frustrating (although tracking is decent) but unlike Thomas I have never put a good lens like a 70-200 f/4 on there.

            I do agree with Thomas that handholding is the way to go for most BIF as the gimbal restricts you too much in most situations.

            • 25
              ) Thomas Stirr
              May 18, 2014 at 4:51 am

              Hi KnightPhoto,

              I agree with your comment about the initial hunting when using an FX zoom with a Nikon 1 body with FT-1 adapter. My 70-200 f/4 is also prone to do that as well. I typically will have the lens auto-focus on something at a similar distance (a rock or tree) to the birds in flight that I’m trying to capture, and hold my thumb over the EVF sensor to keep the image in the viewfinder. The 70-200 typically snaps into focus very quickly on a bird in flight when I remember to do this ‘pre auto focus’ first. I find that helps eliminate much of the AF hunting that the 70-200 does. Not sure if that would work with the 70-300 but it may be worth a try.

              Tom

            • 27
              ) KnightPhoto
              May 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

              Yes, I typically use the pre-focus at a similar distance technique as well when using the FX 70-300. The other difficulty is the 810mm FOV is extreme enough that it can be difficult to find the BIF in the viewfinder initially. So sometimes I zoom out to 200mm to find the bird, then zoom into 300mm to continue tracking it. I don’t think my BIF results are quite as nice as your terns and gulls though, well done BTW! You’ve inspired me to try something else next time, I happen to have a 70-200 f/2.8 VRII which I should give a try just to evaluate if I can approach your results, and also try it with TC14E. Side-topic am excited about the new TC14E III and already have it on order.

              Also thanks for your comments above re. DX / CX trade-offs. Thinking long-term rather than short for myself:
              – I will continue to build my Nikon 1 system as it’s a fun, light, super-fast kit. So a V3 still makes sense for me as it’s time to upgrade my V1 and the V3 has many new features.
              – the N1 70-300 is a long-term purchase expected to be used on many bodies (e.g. V3, V4, etc. over time). The sheer lightweight and size advantage again makes this a logical purchase.
              – Think about this more clearly, my difficulty may be that if a D9300 or D7200 were available today I would probably prioritize that over the two N1 purchases. But over the years I have made out reasonably well buying what might be a 2nd priority for me but that is available today vs. what is my top-priority might be but not yet available. The gamble here is how soon a suitable DX camera is actually going to come out. If it’s really close on the heels of the V3/N1 70-300 I will have used my savings up and may have to wait further on the DX purchase.

  2. 2
    ) Antonio Mario
    May 15, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for the very informative post and very good images.

    When you say

    “…half depressing the shutter and panning with it as the bird came closer…”,

    even though

    “…I was limited to one focus point in the center of the fame when using the FT-1 adapter with the Nikon 1 V2, and that I could only take single exposures…”,

    does that mean that the newer firmware for the V2 allows you to have continuous AF (AF-C), despite being still limited to a single frame?

    I believe, like you, the V3 + the 70-300mm System 1 lens should provide quite an improvement for BIF shots (when the lens becomes available in June). Have you nevertheless tried the V3 with your FT-1 and current lens/converter?

    Thanks and best regards,

    Antonio Mario

    • 4
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 15, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Hi Antonio,

      Thanks for your comment…I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      To answer your question….yes….Nikon has updated the firmware on the FT-1 adapter as of June 2013 to support AF-C.

      I still do not have my V3…latest news is that it should arrive on May 23rd. Rest assured I’m going to start my hands-on review as soon as I get it…and have something posted here on Photography Life as quickly as possible.

      My 1 Nikon 70-300 is scheduled to arrive at the end of May….so a review on that should also be forthcoming…as will a hands-on review of the Nikon version of the Tamron 150-600 which I should have to test towards the end of May.

      Tom

      • 22
        ) KnightPhoto
        May 17, 2014 at 11:27 pm

        Would love to see your thoughts on the Tamron 150-600 (or something like a 300mm f/4 with TC14E) on a DX camera vs. the N1 70-300 on the V3. I’ve seen some samples on the net where the D7100 sure looks good in comparison.

        Are you concerned at all about the lower Dynamic Range of the V3 vs. let’s say a D7100? I do have second thoughts about getting my V3/N1 70-300 from a DR point of view (and total cost) and do consider cancelling my order. On the other hand, from a size, weight perspective I know the V3 will be a good purchase.

        Right now I am only an FX and CX shooter. But I’ll probably re-acquire a DX camera when the D300 replacement comes available (or get a D7200). Then I’ll be a FX, DX, and CX shooter, which may make some sense as I do a lot of birding. I have a 500VR and FX cameras as my main serious shooting rig, but what’s missing for me is a DX camera and a mid-telephoto like a 300mm f/4 VR. When a lighter 500VR comes out that may be light enough in combo with a N1 70-300 for when I REALLY want to go light. I can’t decide without shooting them and carrying them around in real-life situations…

        • 24
          ) Thomas Stirr
          May 18, 2014 at 4:41 am

          Hi KnightPhoto,

          Always great to hear from you! I really appreciate your comment/concern about the 70-300 Nikon 1 lens…I’ve had some second thoughts as well with the one I have on order too. Ultimately I think the small size and flexibility will win out for me.

          Every camera has its trade-offs. The lower dynamic range of the Nikon 1 series is always a concern and that needs to be balanced against its size/weight/fast auto focus. If I was shooting wildlife/birds commercially I would consider a camera like a D7100…or the rumored D9300…as the improved dynamic range and better low light performance would certainly make a difference with image quality and shooting flexibility. And, the 24MP DX sensor would allow for some cropping flexibility.

          I am very intrigued with how the Tamron 150-600 will perform on my D800 in FX and DX modes. I will be borrowing a D7000 so I can include a DX body in my Tamron review. I also intend on trying the Tamron out with the Nikon 1 V3 (which I’m hoping to have Friday next week). I may be a fool to even consider doing this….but I’m going to try hand-holding that combination to see if I can get any acceptable shots at an efov of 1620mm @ f/6.3. Obviously that will be a set up most suitable for static birds in good light.

          If Nikon updates the 300mm f/4 I’m sure it would be a killer lens, especially if it was used with the new TC-14 E III teleconverter. Regardless of the Nikon format owned, I think an updated 300mm f/4 with VR would be a hugely popular lens. Based on the patent filed by Nikon it will be fairly small and light, and with the tC-14E III on a V3 it would allow wildlife enthusiasts to put 18.4 MP on a subject with an efov of 1134mm @ f/5.6.

          From their respective size/weight and focal length capabilities I think both the Tamron 150-600 and 1 Nikon 70-300 could very well be ‘game changers’ for many amateur birders. Compared to long FX prime lens these two zooms appear to be excellent price/performance offerings at roughly $1,000 each.

          I’ve never shot with any of the long FX Nikkor glass like the 500 f/4, 600 f/4, or the 800 f/5.6…but the images I’ve seen look fantastic and neither the Tamron 150-600 nor the 1 Nikon 70-300 could match the IQ performance. But, from a practical standpoint if either of those two telephoto zooms offers even 80% to 85% of the performance of the ‘big boys’….buying one of the zooms could be a no-brainer for the majority of amateur birders since most folks don’t have the $8,500 to $18,000 needed for one of the ‘big boys’.

          Tom

  3. 6
    ) jason
    May 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I’ve had the Nikon 1 V1 for quite some time now. I should have bought the FT-1 adaptor too. This really would be a very convenient & lightweight wildlife setup. I love the f/4 70-200! Very sharp glass. I think you have convinced me to nab the FT-1. Thanks!

    • 8
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 16, 2014 at 4:42 am

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your comment. Once you buy the FT-1 adapter the added potential of your V1 will blossom!

      Tom

  4. 7
    ) Francois Kaplan
    May 15, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Great post as always, to the point and very informative and practical!

    I tried the V1 with FT1 and 105 2.8, I found acquiring focus on flying birds quite difficult.
    Autofocus is limited to the center, I dont’t think we can move it, can we?
    Also, regarding the 5.6 you chose to use instead of f4, was it to be extend the DOF and be able to focus on the body and still have the head sharp?
    Last, did you try manual focus or combination of autofocus and manual focus?

    Thanks,
    Francois

    • 9
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 16, 2014 at 5:38 am

      Hi Francois,

      Always great to hear from you…and thanks for your comment!

      Yes, when using the FT-1 you are limited to one focus point in the centre of the frame and it cannot be moved.

      I’ve found that various F-mount lenses react differently to the FT-1 adapter. I also have a Nikkor 105 micro f/2.8 and I find that mine will also hunt for focus a bit when used with the FT-1….but is acceptable for stationary birds. I haven’t tried mine for birds in flight as I use my 70-200 f/4 which is simply stellar with the FT-1. I’ll give it the 105 micro a try over the next few days and report back on that….

      Whenever I use the Nikon 1 V2 I always shoot in aperture priority mode and never shoot at anything more than f/5.6 so I can avoid the effects of diffraction. The images in this article and in the YouTube video are a mix of f/4, f/5 and f/5.6. The majority were shot at f/5.

      The shots at f/5.6 were a result of the very bright, sunny conditions. With the 1/4000 shutter speed limit on the V2 I had to stop down to f/5.6 on occasion as not to over expose images. When shooting birds in flight with the V2 I don’t think you’d have any problem using f/4 in terms of DOF.

      You do bring up a great point regarding the DOF possible with the Nikon 1 when shooting at f/4 to f/5.6…and getting the entire bird in focus even if you can only grab its body rather than its head. Many of the shots I took were ‘body focus’ simply do to the speed at which the birds were flying past. I took about 1,200 images in 3.5 hours of shooting time…or an average of almost 6 shots per minute…all of them individual frames. I think that is a good indication of how fast the Nikon 1 V2 focuses.

      All of the images were done using autofocus. To help avoid my 70-200 f/4 hunting for focus after shooting some birds that were in close to me, I did do a series of quick manual focusing adjustments, setting the 70-200 between infinity and 5 feet before lining up my next images of incoming birds. This allowed the lens to really snap into focus quickly and not hunt at all. I also had the 70-200 set for infinity-3m.

      To capture the terns emerging from the water with the fish they caught, it was also helpful to autofocus in advance on a section of water roughly equivalent to the distance from me at which the birds were diving and entering the water. I could then concentrate on, and react to, splashes on the surface of the water. That allowed me to find that area on the surface of the water quickly, and focus on the birds as they emerged and flew off with fish in their mouths. Even being limited to single frames I could often get 3 or 4 decent shots banged off before the birds got too far away.

      Hope this has helped….
      Tom

      • 12
        ) Thomas Stirr
        May 16, 2014 at 6:36 am

        Hi Francois,

        Oooops!!! In the second last paragraph it should read infinity to 5 metres…..not 5 feet.

        Tom

        • 18
          ) Francois
          May 16, 2014 at 11:17 am

          Understood, thanks again Tom!

  5. 10
    ) Jay Noe
    May 16, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Hi Thomas,

    Every time I have tried to shoot flying birds with my Nikon 1 series cameras and FT-1 whether it be the 70-200 1:2.8VR or the 300mm 1:4 I come away disappointed having missed too many shots and spending too much time sorting through the out-of-focus rejects. Same goes for the D600. I guess I was spoiled with the 51pt focus system of the D300 which I mistakenly had converted to IR. That said I just love putting that 1 Series back on a tripod mounted 300mm 1:4 with the TC-17 and to shoot non-flying birds like the big birds nesting or feeding their babies at a rookery. I sometimes look around at those folks who are still using the big glass and full frame backs and chuckle to myself at the waste of all that energy lugging that stuff around for such a small gain in picture quality if any gain at all!

    • 11
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

      Hi Jay,

      Without question shooting birds in flight with a Nikon 1 with the FT-1 is a different experience than using a DSLR. I can understand your frustration….last year after just buying my Nikon 1 V2 I tried a number of times to use it with the FT-1 to shoot birds in flight and was not very successful with my initial attempts. I don’t have the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 300 f/4 so I don’t know if they ‘hunt’ for focus like my 105 micro does with the FT-1.

      I’ve found that to get images in focus on a consistent basis using a Nikon 1/FT-1 that I need to do a bit more panning with the birds than is the case with a D7000 or D800. It also helps to do a quick manual focus adjustment and set the lens between infinity to 5 metres in advance of trying to focus on birds…that seems to really help reduce focus hunting a lot.

      Your 300mm f/4 with the TC-17 must be amazing for stationary birds! That set up would give you an efov of 1377mm @ f/6.7. I really hope that Nikon updates the 300mm soon as I would love to get one for the exact application that you described in your post.

      Tom

      • 17
        ) Jay Noe
        May 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

        Yes the 1V1 and 1J1 do a focus hunt with my 70-200 and 300mm lenses. To prevent this I must pre-focus manually. Both backs still make mistakes even when I pre-focus.

  6. 13
    ) Christian Fritschi
    May 16, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for the article Thomas.

    Nice captures considering the limitations. I hope you can shed some light on the following statement: “The fact that I was limited to one focus point in the center of the fame when using the FT-1 adapter with the Nikon 1 V2, and that I could only take single exposures, was somewhat restricting”…..

    Is the single frame limitation a function of the V2 ? I have V1 and use it with the FT-1 and the Nikkor 12-200mm DX and do not experience this problem. As a matter of fact using this set up and the electronic shutter option I can attain a frame rate of about 20.

    Thank you for clarifying this. I have a V3 on pre-order and certainly hope that I will be able to enjoy my usual multiple frame shoots….

    • 19
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 17, 2014 at 4:52 am

      Hi Christian,

      Thanks very much for your comment…it spurred me into doing some additional investigation.

      The original Nikon 1 V2 I owned would not do anything more than single exposures. Based on your comment I went out yesterday with a borrowed V2 (which was newer than the one I had) and to my surprise the mechanical shutter was activated to do 5 fps on the two lenses that I tested (105 f/2.8 micro, 70-200 f/4). The electronic shutter would not activate on my two lenses though. The accuracy of the continuous auto-focus was very good.

      The firmware update that Nikon did must have somehow enhanced the continuous shooting capability when using the FT-1. I have no idea how this happened, and how many lenses have been positively affected and whether it varies by model, i.e. V1 vs. V2.

      Let’s hope that the V3 allows continuous shooting with both mechanical and electronic shutter when using the FT-1 adapter. This capability would provide even more flexibility with the V-series of cameras.

      I’d love to hear from other readers to find out if their V1 or V2 can shoot more than single frames when using the FT-1 adapter…and whether the firmware update done by Nikon had any impact in this regard.

      Christian, thanks again for sharing your experience with the V1.

      Tom

      • 23
        ) KnightPhoto
        May 17, 2014 at 11:57 pm

        Just to confirm… yes my V1/FT-1/FX 70-300mm bangs away in continuous shooting just like with my native N1 lenses. Mind you on the V1 I have to hold the shutter fully depressed during the burst otherwise image review will begin in my EVF (and I’ll lose the subject).

        • 31
          ) Thomas Stirr
          May 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

          Hi KnightPhoto,

          I went out again today under nice, sunny conditions with a V2 and my 70-200 f/4…but without my TC-17E II teleconverter.

          Without the TC-17E II attached, the V2 would give me all of the electronic shutter options as well as the mechanical shutter option, i.e. 5 fps, 15 fps, 30 fps and 60 fps. Nikon must have done something with the FT-1 firmware…which is a very welcome enhancement!

          Tom

      • 26
        ) Christian Fritschi
        May 18, 2014 at 5:42 am

        Hi Thomas,

        I decided to try a couple of other combinations: Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VRII, the latter + TC20E III and finally the Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3.
        With the V1 regardless whether using the El or the Mech shutter I obtained 5fps. Which is just 1 short of what I would get with the D600 and any of these combinations as well. My firmware versions are 1.3; 1.3 & 1.1.
        Let’s hope the V3 will improve on the DR.

    • 20
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Hi Christian,

      I just got back in from doing another test with the ‘borrowed’ V2 and my 70-200 f/4 VR. Without the TC-17E II teleconverter, the V2 would allow the electronic shutter on the V2 to work. I tried a number of test bursts at 15 fps and I was able to get a few acceptable images, although it looks like the number of shots that are actually in focus is likely only in the 10% – 15% range.

      It was very overcast and dull this morning so I’ll have to do another test under better lighting conditions to see if the % in focus improves.

      Tom

  7. 28
    ) Thomas Stirr
    May 18, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Hi KnightPhoto,

    I know what you mean about what is available now…and what is rumored for the future….always makes it a tough choice. If I had my choice between a 1 Nikon 70-300 VR, a Tamron 150-600 VC, and an updated Nikon 300mm f/4 VR….I would likely choose the 300mm. But…as you said…it isn’t available and no one knows when.

    I suppose an option that you have is to wait until September when Nikon typically makes a host of major announcements…if no pro DX body is announced it likely won’t be until the spring of 2015 at the earliest.

    Tom

  8. Profile photo of Rick Keller
    29
    ) Rick Keller
    May 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Greetings Thomas,

    Thank you very much for your article! I immensely enjoyed it. In fact, I have enjoyed many of your recent postings on your expeditions and photojournalism adventures . Well done. : -)

    What a superb job you did with these challenging action and still shots of these lovely birds, in particular with the limitations of the physical setting and of the equipment that you described. In my mind, that’s one of the many characteristics of a skilled and great photographer. :-)

    Thomas, I especially want to thank you for describing your technique and pointing out the fact that you used *spot* metering for your exposures. I cannot relate to you how many times I’ve encountered beginning photographers where I live in San Diego (which is a great locale for birding, btw) and along my hiking forays around California, Oregon, and Iceland where the photographers are, unfortunately, using matrix metering for their bird shots and are baffled why their exposures are disappointing. Thomas, if you wouldn’t mind, for the sake of teaching for any beginners who read your post, would you kindly explain your rationale for your choice of spot metering (as opposed to center-weighted, or matrix)? In addition, assuming that you were using an automatic exposure setting on your cameras (i.e., aperture priority, shutter priority), would you also comment on your exposure compensation settings? With the exception of your still of that lovely cardinal, it would be safe to assume that you used anywhere from +1 2/3 to +2 exposure comp.

    Great job, and Cheers!

    Rick

    • 30
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 18, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks very much for your posting and very kind words…they are very much appreciated.

      I use *spot* metering to try and ensure the best possible exposure on the bird as the background is secondary to the basic integrity of the shot. This is particularly important with birds in flight where there may be a bright or dark background which could then under or over expose the bird if matrix or centre weighted metering is used. On rare occasions I do use centre weighted metering for perched birds if the foliage is attractive and could add to the overall impact of the image. Overall, I would estimate that I use spot metering at least 90% of the time when photographing birds.

      You may be surprised by this…but in terms of exposure compensation…I did not use any for the images in this posting….and I rarely change the exposure compensation from the default of ‘0’ when photographing birds. I have included some detail on how I typically process my bird images which may help explain why they look the way they do in this article.

      I used aperture priority on my camera with settings of f/4 to a maximum of f/5.6. Most of the images were shot at f/5. This was done to get decent depth-of-field and not going over f/5.6 was to avoid diffraction setting in because of the small pixels on the CX sensor in the Nikon 1 V2.

      Most of the images in the article were processed using a combination of DxOMark OpticsPro 8, CS6, and the Nik Collection (Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4). I’ve found that the bird image files from the Nikon 1 V2 seem to like DxOMark OpticsPro 8 the best…so I typically initially run the images through that software first.

      Every image is somewhat different but typically I let DxOMark do its initial corrections….then I apply 1 or 2 presets…i.e. under Detail Adjustment I usually use ‘sharpen fine details’. Then under ‘HDR (single shot)’ I try all three settings in turn to see if any of them enhance the overall balance of the image to my liking. Sometimes one does…and sometimes not.

      Then I go to the Customize menu in DxOMark and often add quite a bit more microcontrast often up to 60. I then adjust Smart Lighting, sometimes taking the intensity right down to ‘0’ if needed. This can help to bring back highlight areas. I often then play around a bit with Selective Tone and often take Highlights and Midtones down to between -10 and -20 (which can bring back a lot more details – this can help compensate for the limited dynamic range with the Nikon 1 V2’s sensor) and I play around with Shadows, often moving that to +20 to +35 depending on the image. At this point I process the file, and save it as a TIFF.

      Then I take the image into CS6 and go into Image – Adjustments., and I usually adjust Gamma under the Exposure setting (taking it to between 95 – 92 depending on the image), I usually check the Curve Options to see if any of them are to my liking. If needed, I may go to the Shadow/Highlights area and make a few adjustments there as well. I then go into The Nik Collection plug-ins and open up Color Efex Pro 4 and see if the shot can be enhanced by the use of Polarization and/or Pro Contrast. The last thing I do is use Viveza 2 and make some final small adjustments with Structure, Shadows, Contrast and Exposure.

      :-)…sorry if this was more detail than you were expecting….if so…thanks for your patience in reading it all.

      Tom

      • Profile photo of Rick Keller
        34
        ) Rick Keller
        May 19, 2014 at 10:38 am

        Hi Tom,

        Thank you kindly for your discussion of your metering technique. Hopefully, it will help beginners out there learn the essentials of birding metering and obtain good exposures :-)

        Wow, your discussion of your exposure adjustments is quite impressive. I’m afraid those tech details are far beyond my tether; but clearly, it gives you the results that you desire and makes you a happy photographer at the end of the day. Personally, I stick to a simplified Zone System with my exposures. But then again, I’m very “old-school”, I suppose. ;-)

        Thank you again for a wonderful post! I look forward to your next one.

        Cheers!

        Rick

  9. 32
    ) Luzius Schneider
    May 19, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Thanks for your formidable review!
    I’m thinking about buying a Nikon 1 V3 or a J4 …
    Would you know, what I would really miss by buying the J4 compared to the V3, if I use it only for birding together with the FT-1 adapter. Do you think, the higher price of the V3 is well invested, even so I would not buy a DF-N1000?
    Thanks!

    • 33
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 19, 2014 at 4:26 am

      Hi Luzius,

      I guess it will come down to how comfortable you are shooting without a viewfinder and if you plan on trying to take images of birds in flight. If your plan is to only take images of perched birds and perhaps use a tripod most of the time, the J or S series of Nikon 1 cameras may meet your needs.

      The biggest difference between the V3 and J4 cameras is the lack of a viewfinder with the J4. Since I ‘grew up’ taking photos with an SLR, I would find it very difficult not to have a viewfinder on a camera…and I’d likely find it virtually impossible to take shots of birds in flight without a viewfinder. It may be quite different for you.

      Before buying either of the cameras I’d recommend that you borrow a Nikon 1 and try to take photos of birds with it.

      From a cost perspective your other option would be to buy a new Nikon 1 V2 or V1 if you can find one, as they would be much more affordably priced. The V1 is likely very hard to find, and in some countries even finding a V2 is getting very difficult. You can always look for a good used V series camera as well.

      It is difficult for me to advise whether the V3 is ‘worth’ more money than a J4 as it really comes down to an individual’s needs and purchase criteria. I have ordered a V3…but my main reasons to do so are for the enhanced video capability, touch screen focusing, and the flip screen. If I was only concerned about birding images, the V2 would have met my needs.

      Again, before buying a Nikon 1….I’d recommend borrowing one and trying to shoot some bird images. That will help you decide how important having a viewfinder is for you.

      Tom

  10. 35
    ) oeriies
    May 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the informative piece. I enjoyed it. I’ve tried my V1/FT1 with a variety of lenses, including my Siggy 120-300mm F/2.8 OS and Nikon 500mm F/4G. Image quality is pretty good for birds on a stick in decent light. Birds in flight are definitely a challenge because of the single point autofocus and the viewfinder interruptions caused by image review. After a lot of testing I’m comfortable with my conclusion that for roughly the same field of view I’m better off using my D7100 and cropping than the V1/FT1 — this is true for image quality and really true for autofocus and tracking in less than optimal conditions. It is also worth keeping in mind that once you have a heavy piece of glass in front of a N1 body, you no longer have a light kit — rather you have a kit that is unbalanced. I think the promise of the N1 series for bird photography will only be realized with a native N1 supertele lens.

    • 36
      ) Thomas Stirr
      May 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Hi oeriies,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately with the V1 you are unable to turn off the ‘image review’ and that really does slow things down quite a bit. With the V2 this can be turned off.

      To you point about an N1 supertele for birding….it will be interesting to see how the 1 Nikon 70-300 performs.

      Tom

  11. 37
    ) Thomas Stirr
    May 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    For those of you that may be wondering if the new Tamron 150-600 VC will work with a Nikon 1 with an FT-1 adapter I had a chance to check this out at the Henry’s Camera Exposure event in Toronto.

    The Nikon 1 V2 does not recognize the Tamron 150-600 at all. A representative from the Canadian distributor for Tamron explained that the lens has been designed for Nikon DSLRs and not mirrorless cameras.

    Tom

  12. 38
    ) ZEESHAN MITRA
    June 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Excellent shots and a very informative article. I have a question that the 2.7x crop factor on the Nikon 1 gives a EFov of 810mm with a 300mm lens thus does this extra reach come with some trade offs in the form of image quality reduction or does it give acceptable images. I am planning to try the Nikon 1 with FT-1 adapter with my Nikkor 70-300mm

    • 39
      ) Thomas Stirr
      June 9, 2014 at 4:05 am

      Hello Zeeshan,

      The overall image quality will be the result of camera sensor performance and the properties of the lens used. I’ve certainly found that the image quality has been acceptable when using the Nikkor 70-200 f/4, even when I’ve added the Nikkor TC-17E II teleconverter with that lens. I’ve also used the V2 with Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 as noted in this Photography Life article:
      http://photographylife.com/telephoto-setup-nikon-1-v2-ft-1-nikkor-85mm-f1-8g
      and found it capable of producing very good images with that lens.

      I used to own a Nikkor 70-300 lens and found it to be a bit soft over 200mm when used with a D7000 but I have never shot with it on a V2 so I cannot comment on that specifically. If you search the internet you will find some people who are quite happy using the 70-300 with their Nikon 1.

      The best thing is simply to give it a try and see if it meets your expectations. I’d suggest starting with static subjects as you’ll likely find trying to track birds in flight on the long end of your 70-300 can be quite a challenge in terms of just finding the subject…then keeping it in the frame.

      Tom

      • 40
        ) ZEESHAN MITRA
        June 9, 2014 at 4:17 am

        Thank you for the reply. Yes the image does get soft beyond 200mm. Yes tracking a bird in flight on the long end of the lens will be tedious and challenging. Thus I think first I will have to try and will take a look at the images taken by people who have tried 70-300mm on the Nikon 1. Thank you for the valuable advice and I will post once I try it on my own

Comment Policy: Although our team at Photography Life encourages all readers to actively participate in discussions, we reserve the right to delete / modify any content that does not comply with our Code of Conduct, or do not meet the high editorial standards of the published material.

Leave a Comment